The Daily: 20 February 2023

The Wolf Moon ends today. Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and the New Hunger Moon. Time is getting on!

One of the best and purest joys is having a rest after labor.
— Marcus Aurelius
(found in Tolstoy's Calendar of Wisdom on 19 February)

I’ve decided that I am done with my job. I am just not constitutionally capable of coping with actual tons of crap, all of which would not exist in an equitable and healthy world.

The last straw was a mountain of university-branded diploma frames that showed up on three pallets a half hour before the store closed when I was in the shop by myself — because apparently the huge corporation that owns this shop can’t afford payroll for reasonable staffing. Anyway, these three pallets did not fit in the building’s freight elevator, and the shop is in the basement. So I had to close early and break them all down on the loading dock — in the cold rain! — and then haul the resulting five cartloads to the store and try to pile them up in the extremely overstocked storage room.

In which there are already six piles of diploma frames that are stacked up taller than I am…

This order was unnecessary in every sense of the term. It is a waste of materials, a copious waste of shipping, a waste of my time and effort (also copious), and a complete waste of the store’s budget. Because it will never sell. If the whole graduating class this year all bought diploma frames, we’d have leftovers. (Though they’d all buy the one kind they like out of the six or seven varieties… based on sales to date, we’d quickly run out of that, but sell almost nothing of the rest.)

But the new graduates don’t buy $200 to $300 diploma frames, each of which is about 20″ by 30″ and roughly ten pounds. Twenty-year-olds don’t have the money and they don’t have the wall space — if they have walls at all. The alumni who have been out of school long enough to have big paychecks that come with offices that have sweeping expanses of bare wall buy these frames from our online shop. I ship out about two a month. Maybe. (And always that one kind… it’s called “Regal”… which is embarrassing enough without considering the fake gold leaf and red leatherette matting.)

So, utter waste…

The worst is that this enormous pile is only half of the purchase order. I have no idea what to do when the next round shows up. It is scheduled to arrive in early March. I hope to be gone before then. I’ve had three interviews and will be doing another two this week. I’m shooting for a job that does not involve fifty pound boxes of sweatshirts and plastic car decals that get mailed out several times a day in plastic bubble mailers and seven foot tall piles of dead inventory diploma frames. I suspect I’ll be able to find something with those qualifications. I still can’t believe that a bookstore job fails on all that. With the further insult of hardly involving any book sales…

In any case, there may be interruptions in these posts as I scramble and adjust accordingly. And I may just decide to take a well-earned break from everything for a few days. A rest from labors sounds pretty sweet about now.

But I have a bit of blather left for February. So enjoy!

I’ve been keeping a weather journal for years. I buy one of those five-year, pre-printed things so that I don’t have to think too much in the early morning, just fill in the blanks. I use my own primitive weather monitoring tools — a cheap min-max thermometer on the front porch, a rain gauge in the herb bed, a yard stick for snow, and the front room window which has a wide view of the southwestern horizon with a few handy flags and functioning chimneys to judge the wind. I learned to read clouds from books, augmented by a sedimentation course in geology which explained all the forms left behind flowing fluids. I also have a digital weather station in my bedroom and, though I’m not sure it’s reading much but my bedroom these days, it does do a decent job of tracking air pressure. At least enough to confirm the message coming from my joints.

I look at Weather Underground every day for the forecast and a bit more detail in the current conditions. I write down what they’ve recorded for the day prior, especially when I just didn’t have the time or inclination to check the outdoor tools. And I write down the sunrise and sunset times from the Old Farmer’s Almanac (print version) along with whatever strikes me as passingly relevant to time and weather — from moon phases to volcanic eruptions to typhoons on the other side of the globe.

All this helps me keep track of seasonal shifts which, for me, means keeping track of time. It is how I have created a calendar that fits my part of the world. It is how I determine when to do things in the garden. It is how I plan. For example, if the last many years have seen warm, dry Julys (as they have been), then I don’t plan on growing water-hungry veg in July. So far this has worked, though I’m sure a wet July is just as likely. (I also don’t plant anything that can’t tolerate “average” local conditions which were determined decades ago when summer rainfall was higher and temperatures were lower, so wet is not a problem.)

We talk about there being no normal now, but I think that we might just be unwilling to accept what normal is. My weather journal pretty clearly shows that the weather is predictably repeatable one year to the next. It is not pleasurable. It is not those averages that were recorded back in the 20th century. It is not the weather of my childhood, nor that of my millennial kids. It is far more extreme than even a decade ago when I started this project. It is changing in that it is getting more extreme, but there are eerie recurrences. For instance, last week I noted that the weather was exactly the same as 2022 for three days running. Three days in February that went from unseasonably warm pouring rain, to cold blue skies, to squally snow with an overnight low near 0°F. This was a strong shift in conditions one day to the next (one hour to the next…), but it was exactly the same last year. (This repetition was then duly noted in the weather journal…)

I’ve moved around a bit in the last few years of keeping this journal, so there is a bit of variance. The move to Vermont is obvious, but only in temperatures. It’s colder up here year round, but the patterns of drought and storms and bizarre jet stream wobbles are the same as central Massachusetts. One good difference is we aren’t as droughty here because we get a bit of lake effect precipitation from Lake Champlain when the wind is from the northwest (as it often is). So when the drought maps are published, Vermont tends to be yellow (even green up north) when Massachusetts is looking fairly red.

So there are trends, maybe even averages. These are nothing like the averages that are used by weather forecasters, hence the abysmal record of weather forecasting these days — even for Weather Underground which is supposed to be local, crowd-sourced data. But the weather is also not just chaos. If you keep your own records, you’ll start to see the patterns. Maybe we weather journalists can start a cottage industry of more accurate weather predictions… I doubt these would get onto the Weather Channel. Too much confirmation of climate change. (Weather Channel data are just laughable, for the record…) But I’m sure gardeners would love to have better forecasts.

One of the best things about keeping these records is the little markers that give time a discernible form. The first frosts and last frosts. The day that sunlight lasts long enough to stimulate plant growth. The first brush of color on the maples in early autumn. The first snow. And then the first day you can open windows to air out the house without draining the fuel tank. (Soon… so soon…)

One marker that is especially pleasing to me is when the sun sets well after 5pm and then rises before 7am. This subtle difference in the sun’s position grants me time to eat breakfast without turning on lights and then gives me ample time to run errands on the way home after work before full darkness makes driving on the potholed roads just unacceptable risk. It makes me happy to write down those times. It’s a sign that the days will be a bit more relaxed for a while. Until the stupid time change plunges morning into darkness again… but at least I don’t have to drive in that.


One of the other things I am seeking in a new job is not having to commute at all. There is one that is only a couple blocks from my house. And there are no sweatshirts or diploma frames. Wish me luck!

©Elizabeth Anker 2023

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